Chandigarh, Dec 9 Downplaying the controversy around his rumoured feud with Cabinet minister Navjot Singh SidhuSidhu, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said that Navjot Sidhu is a "likeable person" and he shares warm ties with even Sidhu's parents when the cricketer-turned-minister's father was president of Patiala district Congress unit and his (Amarinder's) mother Mohinder Kaur was the Member of Parliament from Patiala.
The Chief Minister said that he and Sidhu "were not at loggerheads as reported by the media and he has absolutely no problems with Sidhu in running the government".
Amarinder said that Sidhu always speaks in a forthright manner and his only problem is that "sometimes he shoots before he thinks".
Responding to another question regarding Sidhu's remarks that Rahul Gandhi is his captain, the Chief Minister said that this was hardly any issue to be raised as Sidhu has always treated him (Amarinder) as a "fatherly figure".
Dubbing the whole affair initiated by Pakistan on the Kartarpur corridor as a "bigger conspiracy" hatched by the Pakistan Army, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said the hostile neighbour is trying to revive militancy in Punjab but it will not be allowed to succeed.
Citing that Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had "broken the news of opening the Kartarpur Corridor to Navjot Singh Sidhu even before Imran Khan was sworn in as their Prime Minister", Amarinder said the whole affair smacked of a bigger conspiracy.
"The opening of the Kartarpur corridor is clearly a game plan of the ISI (Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence). A bigger conspiracy seems to have been hatched by Pakistan Army against India. Pakistan is attempting to revive militancy in Punjab and thus everyone should be wary of all of its overtures, no matter how grand they appear to be," Amarinder told a TV news channel.
"The Sidhu affair is being unnecessarily hyped and those raising it have clearly failed to see the ISI game plan, said Amarinder, lashing out at the Akalis for branding the Punjab Minister as stooge of the Pakistan Prime Minister," the Chief Minister's spokesperson said here on Sunday.
Dismissing the issue as "nothing more than a credit war", Amarinder lambasted the Akalis and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) central leadership "for indulging in unwarranted controversy over his (Chief Minister's) relations with Sidhu in a bid to divert public attention from the core issue of Pakistan's continued and deliberate perpetration of terror activities in Punjab with the ultimate aim of destabilising the border state".
Amarinder said in the interview that the demand for opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor was pending since partition as several holy Sikh shrines (Sri Nankana Sahib, Sri Panja Sahib, Dera Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib) had gone to Pakistan.
"Even former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue of opening the Kartarpur Corridor with Pakistan. I had myself raised this issue with my Pakistan Punjab counterpart Parvez Elahi and with then President Parvez Musharraf during my previous tenure as Chief Minister," Amarinder pointed out.
The Chief Minister said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan "is undoubtedly making efforts to bring peace, tranquility and harmony with India", but at the same time he should also prevail upon the top brass of Pakistani Army to ensure that killings of Indian soldiers at borders are stopped immediately.Asked why he opted not to go to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, Amarinder said he declined the invite because he could not think of going there while Indian soldiers and civilians were being killed by the Pakistan Army.
On the issue of Navjot Sidhu's visit to Pakistan for the ground-breaking ceremony, the Chief Minister said he had told Sidhu that he had declined the invite by writing a letter to the Pakistan Minister for foreign affairs, and had also shared a copy of the same on the social media. Despite his advice against going to Pakistan, Sidhu went ahead due to his friendship with Imran Khan," said the Chief Minister, adding that "this was not unreasonable".
He said that he himself has many friends there, including former Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi.
"We had been meeting frequently during my previous tenure and Elahi had also been coming to meet me in Patiala," Amarinder said.
Amarinder Singh warned Pakistan against carrying on its nefarious designs and urged it to desist from trying to foment trouble in Punjab.
"General Bajwa should understand that Punjab Police is fully geared up to take Pakistan head-on, if it continues to vitiate peaceful atmosphere of the state through terror. Bajwa is sadly mistaken in underestimating the unbounded capacities and capabilities of Punjab Police in facing any daunting challenge," the Chief Minister said.
He advised Bajwa "not to compare Punjab with the 1970s and 1980s when its police force was a meager 16000-17000".A"The force now is well equipped with high tech weapons and ammunition, along with professionally committed commando battalions and the Punjab Armed Force, to effectively tackle any challenging task," the Chief Minister asserted.
Reiterating his government's commitment to break the backbone of terrorism, Amarinder said that no one would be allowed to push Punjab back into the black days of terrorism.